New Poems

Selected Poems

Selected Poems from the new writings of Dan Guenther.

Elegy for Yellowstones 832F

Tonight, a rainy weather change comes in 
and we lie sleepless, 
our thoughts drifting back to that single wolf in the news,
the one killed a mile outside the park boundary, 
an alpha female called the most famous in the world.

Those who count elk for a living say the wolves
are now increasing as predicted,
that 832F was the granddaughter 
of a lone lupine trail walker
who wandered down from Canada,
and that the call of a howling wolf 
returning to an ancestral home is for some 
like that of a sacred drum heard from a distance.

A friend tells a story from the same remote backcountry, 
one that still gives him bad dreams, of her bright eyes staring 
back just beyond the campfire early one morning,  
how the light rain washed 
her bloody paws clean as she slipped away.

Blood Moon in Perigee, September 2015

The return of cold weather
brought clear night skies across the Great Divide,
and a number of noted back country photographers 
hiked up to photograph the blood moon in perigee.

Over in Vail the ski bums and snowboarders 
began their annual rendezvous 
as the aspens turned to gold,
with the lunar orb swinging closest to the Earth
like a lone, luminous eye staring back from the heavens.

Everything in this high country is part of a cycle, 
including those visits from celebrities 
who celebrate themselves down at the Black Hawk casinos,
each spinning in an orbit of their own making:

A single wolf from Wyoming was spotted tracking south 
along the alpine heights,
drifting back to an ancestral home where his howl 
became one, once again, 
with the mountain wind blowing through the darkness.

Time of the Larkspur

Down along the banks of the Arkansas
heavy stands of larkspur bloom early.

Two young hikers pause to snap photos,
dazzled by the landscape and each other.

On the sand-sage plain stretching toward Kansas 
booming prairie chickens respond 
to the interlopers with a stomping, ritual dance.

A quiet avocet wading by the river's edge,
most delicate of grassland water birds,
tilts her slender head to one side as if eavesdropping.

Her two competing suitors follow in trace
with a frenzy of head bobbing, as if taken by a spell.

Relationships blossom as our snow-pack melts
to feed the seething floods, washing away
all the unfinished business of the lingering cold.

Colorado Life Magazine, May-June 2015

Probity

At dusk, after another day of unfulfilled promises,
the peaks still glimmer as night comes on,
and we await the jagged face of the moon
to illuminate the snowfields with day-bright light.

Across a mountain meadow, in a distant copse of conifers,
a tiny owl cries from a hiding place,
its small mutterings our compass, guiding our passage 
from where things seldom unfold as planned.

A bull elk stands motionless within the shelter of the trees 
like an honored judge, one noted for his probity, 
and who ponders the sublime messages of owls 
in the calm of the here and now.

Colorado Life Magazine, November/December 2012

Twilight Meditations at Roxborough Park

South of Roxborough Park 
300-million-year-old spires 
of red sandstone 
tilt upward at 60-degree angles.

Below, where a small elk herd settles down for the night,
an elderly couple hikes through a remnant stand
of ancient pines in the gathering twilight,
hoping to find a place protected from the wind.

A last canyon wren calls as the first stars appear, 
and in a billion years when our sun finally explodes
the earth in its death throes will become a burnt husk,
all our remains mere embers in the great glactic arc.

Colorado Life Magazine, March-April 2019

Seventy miles outside of Denver

You have been driving across the high plains
throughout the night,
consumed by a sudden longing to return,
your quiet companion 
a waning moon descending in the West,
a source that can
tell you nothing of where your life has gone.

With some seventy miles to go 
the news reports fires along the Front Range,
and in the smoky pre-dawn gloom,
as the sun's first light
illuminates the distant alpine heights,
a single antelope appears beside the highway,
the lone witness to your homecoming.


A Year Remembered

For a moment let's return to another place
near a back country lake
bordered by ancient conifers,
a landscape where the cow elk often came to drop
their calves and celebrate the rites of spring.
 
During high summer
after the big burn was over,
a haze spread out across the surface of the water,
a smoky portal through which many passed
to recover what they could.
 
That fall, when the fading afternoon light
was just right,
they had a rendezvous to hear the bull elk bugle,
the cycle beginning again where each offered up
their hopes and dreams to one another.
 
When December came they returned a last time to heap
a pyramid-shaped pyre with things that had decayed,
sharing only what was best remembered about the past,
and watching as the windblown sparks lifted skyward,
into the cold, opaque quiet of the night.

Colorado Life Magazine, 2016

To the Orchid Hunter

On your journey to view the wax lip orchids
you came upon a unique landscape
in the semidarkness of a glade,
one where the medicinal value of the rarest flowers 
had yet to be determined.

From a gully strewn with empty bottles of Flag Ale,
a hybrid, still unknown to science, 
rose as pale as the lunar orb;
and you were gratified you left behind that old life,
summoning the courage to search for what you had found.

For a time you sat in the serenity of a windless quiet,  
high on the sudden rush of your unexpected find,
meditating on your own imperfect story,
while within the hollow sanctum of a giant gum
the bush bees practiced their alchemy.

Among the clusters of ferns arching through the shade 
you watched a pair of foxes rendezvous,
the eyes of the bold vixen 
staring back at you
as they twisted together in a feral stink.

And when the mutterings of the night insects began 
you asked yourself if you were turned inside out 
with ambition, 
or if you still wanted anonymity,
knowing life does not reward those who cower in the dark.


Australian Series, 2015

When the Owl Came to Gunnamatta Park

This rainy night belongs to the owl roosting 
above my porch,
the one holding a dying brushtail in a chokehold.

Like an eccentric old man
he arrived unannounced
to stake his claim on our neighborhood.

His presence signaled the occult to some,
a shape-shifter haunting the backyards,
or a golden-eyed conjurer looking for possums
wearing only a feathered cloak.

During the day he sleeps within the hollow
of a rough-barked apple gum
near Gunnamatta Park's remnant of bushland canopy.

And we wondered if his fragmented habitat	
hid a beloved who heeded his moaning call, 
a sound suggesting travel over long distances,
or extended periods spent in isolation.

Quite at home on our cul-de-sac,
he practices his conjuring repertoire alone,
perhaps waiting for an answer from the great beyond.


Australian Series, 2015

Reflections on the Subject of a Recurring Dream

You wrote how a native cat left paw prints 
in the dust beneath your window,
of new insights gained about yearnings from years ago,
much like when a sudden light upon the land 
transfigures the trivial into a beautiful thing.

Here at McMahons Point the fragrance of the jacarandas
exceeds our expectations,
and along the foreshore a flock of white ibis gathers,
indifferent to our presence, their black eyes glazed 
as if they share a vision beyond our understanding.

In a recurring dream you found your cure for doubt,
a process anchored in the unconditional love from another,
where you believed personal faith trumped fear,
guiding those strong of heart who clashed by night 
with the darkest of armies.

I look for daily inspiration during my walks along an old train track, 
where a tunnel painted with graffiti has a formidable beauty of its own,
suggesting perhaps cave paintings from the Paleolithic,
four black bulls in motion like ancient aurochs,
the visual depth achieved both remarkable and yet primitive in form.
 
May your dreams continue to be marked by peace
rather than whispers as to what once might have been, 
with the moth owl, so intimate with your bush-covered hills,
calling above the din of the crickets, 
and summoning only the best of possibilities.


Australian Series, 2015

Notes from a Cronulla Homecoming

Yearning for the places of our youth
we followed a path 
held permanent in our hearts.

What we found 
was as impermanent as the thawing tundra,
our favorite pub rebuilt into high rise condos. 

Skateboarders 
wheeled down Cronulla's Esplanade, reckless,
and in tune with their own celestial music.

No doubt the universe is speeding up,
with yesterday's longings filling the emptiness
for those left behind.

Tonight the news reports two white pointers 
consumed a humpback calf off Kurnell, 
churning the whale-bloodied sea into burgundy froth;

And we who once danced before bonfires on the beach
stroll in the here and now under Washingtonia Palms,
where memories of our old passions mean everything. 


Australian Series, 2015

Humpback Whales

Whalers called their songs
the dark liturgy of Lucifer,
the grunts and groans of his aggrieved, 
fallen angels, echoing
through the scalloped chambers of the ships.

Off Hawaii, long ago, I first heard them cry
from their cathedral in the deep. 

The songs bring their solitary kind together.

And together the sonic pods 
become acrobats, cavorting,
leaping free and clear-eyed, 
high into the air, 
shaking barnacles from mottled snouts.

At times the placid humpbacks will float quietly 
on the smooth surface of a night sea.

Do you suppose the whales are gazing at the stars, 
the galaxies spinning 
above them in cosmic emptiness?

November, 2007

Cicadas

After such a long sleep
the cicadas climb into the treetops
where dark oaks rise like religious towers.
 
The heat of the day softens their stiff tongues,
and they lift their wings to sing, 
turning loose the longings of 17 years.
 
We belong to their brief cycle,
to that whine for the chirping nymphs
emerging from the leaf-litter,
when all that runs and cries is bright and young.
 
So what form is this that broods to shed its skin,
then clicks in our memory, perennial as a first kiss,
to tangle together high on the trunks of trees,
buzzing until they perish and we are sleepless? 

The wind gathers their crisp remains,
sweeping all that falls to earth into ashen clusters, food
for the grumbling toads scavenging within the ferns.
 
June, 2007

The Frog Choir

Twilight dissolved into an April moon,
and we took her pony for a ride
to a pond bordering the deep woods. 
 
We were gangly and dumb, both tall for our age, 
playing with fire 
while chorus frogs trilled along the reedy banks.
 
When the wind in the trees picked up speed 
so did she, guiding my hand in dark hour
to the songs of a frog choir.
 
The pond dried slowly into mountain meadow
over time, and the ranks of the frog choir
have thinned to disease and ultra-violet rays.
 
High overhead, on silent wings, 
flocks of geese glide by, the old pond
but an ancestral memory in their cold celestial blur.
 
Out in the snowy timber 
the call of a Great Horned Owl 
fades in the moonlit here and now.

August, 2009

Advice to my granddaughter on the physics of hope

Don't be threatened by the general relativity of everything.

Remember that the sky is infinite in all directions,
that the physics of hope evolves out of imagined worlds.

We know that the fabric of the cosmos is held together by tension,
that the stars and planets are suspended 
in a web of invisible atoms and electrons.

All that is dogma, a long-standing idea 
that will one day unite quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity,
releasing us from fear,
allowing technology to ennoble humanity.

I believe that particle acceleration is the foundation of love,
that the future is firmly anchored in new ideas, 
in the assumption that both large and small are acceptable.

To glimpse the Grand Design is possible.

For within the physics of hope one finds vision,
a pure notion often expressed in renewed energy,
a science never reduced to finite marks on paper.

The real solution to X is in the essence of dreams,
in having a quest, a passion through time.

All the music of nature may be manifested on particles and waves.

But remember that the Almighty's equations are a matter of faith,
and one doesn't waste time
in speculation on the death of the sun.

Oh yes, and memories are stellar dust sprinkled on a pillow.

January, 2007

Letter from a city on the plains

Many come here for the healing waters,
others to escape the void.
 
Some to connect with lost mysteries under the palms.
 
At its height this city boasted ten thousand under arms,
fountains of artesian water for the spice caravans,
always a city looming large in my historian's eye.
 
Nights on the broad avenues belonged to street musicians
and poets, philosophers who argued various possibilities 
of being, the unchanging within the flow of sensibility.
 
But the king's astronomers turned to prophesy
and a false science of the stars,
evoking decadent forms in their path to power,
beauty, decay, and rebirth, the transcendent ethic.

The end came out of the cold steppes to the north.
 
A vigorous horse culture, yet to be degraded,
swept down on hardy ponies to seize the wells.
 
Tall horsemen took control, marveling at the comfort
found in this city on the plains, 
and embracing that dark Gnosticism 
with its worship of black angels.

Dusty tombs chronicle the history of their slow decline,
where I consumed my life in a worthless study.

My life has contributed nothing to the greater good.

When you read this letter I will have walked away
into the treeless nothingness beyond the walls.
 
How appropriate for the shape-shifter I have become,
dying in the pursuit of a more complete knowledge,
and perhaps crossing into another world.

October, 2006

Meditations after the supernova

The sun goes supernova and all that remains is beauty.
 
The blue and watery eye of our globe 
blinks and disappears without an elegy or valediction.
 
Nothing escapes,
the masses evaporating
as one expression of heat and light.
 
All our oiled motion ends in a drifting thing of clouds.
 
Corruption whirls in a luminous well as the galaxy spins.

Infant stars 
clump out of the infinite,
yet invisible magnetic flood.
 
Gravity bends time 
and an ocean of gas arises to glow like a great lamp, 
grand and serene, bright as any moon.

September, 2006

Finding Refuge

In dense woods 
where the weasel's red eye gleams,
blue jays pick clean the carcass of a deer.

Light rain slicks the trillium and bloodroot.

Last night, in their estuary of leaves,
tree frogs croaked.  A circle of pale toadstools
sprung up 
under the canopy of the oaks.

The blue jays protest our passage forward.

Tangles and leaf litter hide the refuge of the vole.

Just ahead, where the weasel speeds on,
aligned only with his dark design,
the clear-eyed and chattering jays 
protest the dark snout nosing in the leaves,
the chilly wind's needle teeth.

October, 2006